Introduced late in 2013, the Shoei RF-1200 raised the bar on what to expect from a premium helmet, becoming the go-to helmet for many riders and the measuring stick by which new competitors were judged.
Its intermediate-oval fit seems to be comfortable for the majority of the riders who try it, it was one of the lightest helmets available for years, helped to usher in Pinlock faceshields and speaker cutouts for com systems as standard features, and, more recently, it was among the first to offer a Transitions photochromic visor. It feels premium despite debuting and maintaining a sub-$500 price tag.
Hardcore RevZilla customers may already know that it led our Helmet’s Gear Guides for three years in a row as one of our picks for best helmets of the year. Even after it fell from the guide as an official pick, it was often referenced as the main go-to for many Zillans. And despite all of the new helmets we’ve seen released over the past seven years, it remains one of the best selling helmets every year.
So how does one expect Shoei to update and replace such a legendary lid? Very carefully. Change is here, however, in the form of the RF-1400.
After a few days of testing, here are the top five changes I’ve found with the new Shoei RF-1400.
Let’s start with the elephant in the room: The RF-1400 actually gained weight over its predecessor. The new helmet tips the scales at three pounds, nine ounces in a medium, three ounces heavier than the RF-1200 in the same size.
Shoei claims the weight comes from increased thickness of the EPS (the protective foam in a helmet that compresses and keeps your noodle safe in a crash) at the sides of the helmet. This also creates a tighter fit in the cheeks of the helmet, which we’ll get to in the next section.
Shoei did an excellent job improving the aerodynamics of the shell so it doesn’t feel heavier in motion, as there seems to be less wind drag. That being said, while I don’t think the average rider will notice the added weight, they will immediately notice that tighter fit at the cheeks.
One of the most common questions we get at RevZilla is from people asking us how a helmet is supposed to fit. While I don’t want to dive too deep into that topic here (We have a helmet sizing guide for that) I do want to reinforce that a helmet should fit as snugly as possible without being uncomfortable.
This new fit maintains the intermediate oval design around the crown of the head that was so popular with the RF-1200 but improves fitment around the jaw. RevZilla gear expert Pat McHugh said that to him it just feels more contoured and comfortable. For me, I feel like it offers more support at high speeds. It stays in place.
Brandon Wise, who arguably has the most riding time with this new model thus far, says that it definitely feels more snug when you’re putting on or removing the helmet, something that is definitely going to be noticeable coming from an RF-1200. However, once you get it on, it’s more comfortable on longer rides. He also noted it helps create a better seal around the neck, which cuts down on noise.
Ultimately, this is the hardest category to discuss on a helmet. Noise is extremely subjective and when manufacturers test their lids, most often it’s done in a wind tunnel without outside elements like the windscreen specific to your bike or the tractor-trailer blazing by next to you on the freeway.
So please feel free to take this with a grain of salt, but we didn’t find the RF-1400 to be any quieter than the RF-1200. I would note that installing the chin skirt (the small piece of material that goes under your chin) does help a little with reducing the road noise. This is an important note because Shoei has designed this helmet to seal off as much wind as possible coming up from below. And the chin skirt is responsible for a large part of that.
Personally, I hate a chin skirt. I feel it usually ends up just making it harder to get in and out of a helmet. Ultimately, however, if you want the quietest lid possible (road noise doesn’t bother me) you’ll want to make sure to utilize this.
Brandon also noted a whistling noise when testing one of our samples. Ultimately, he found that part of that was coming from the faceshield.
The RF-1400 gets a completely new CWR-F2 faceshield. Pulling data from the X-14 used by Marc Márquez, they added Vortex Generators to the rear edge of the shield to add to the improved aerodynamics. The CWR-F2 is now a true flat shield design, again, something we see most often on race-level helmets. This lessens distortion and improves overall visuals.
The Pinlock insert is 10 percent larger than the predecessor, which further improves the usable range of peripheral vision on the RF-1400. If you’re not familiar with it, Pinlock technology is an insert that seals against the interior of the shield and prevents fogging.
One of the biggest improvements we found on the new lid is the gasket for sealing the faceshield to the helmet. It is a one-piece gasket that seals extremely tightly without any gaps or spaces. Brandon did find his sample to be whistling a little bit straight out of the box but was able to adjust it via the plates on the side of the helmet and sure up its fit.
For all that we like about the faceshield redesign, there is one big misstep. You’ll notice that Shoei has also moved the tab to open the faceshield to the center position and added a latch release button. This is something we have disliked from other manufacturers and the RF-1400 hasn’t changed our minds. With motorcycle gloves on it’s extremely tricky to get the visor open if it’s latched shut. We already miss the old-style opening on the side of the shield.
Overall, venting on the RF-1200 was adequate at best. The vents were a weak point in an otherwise impressive helmet. Not only were the vents hard to open and close with gloves on, the airflow itself was less than notable. Shoei has addressed this inadequacy with the vents on the new RF-1400.
The new lid splits the chin vent into two separate intake openings and gets an additional vent at the forehead. Almost more importantly, the center vent cover is now a slide design similar to the Neotec 2 and GT-Air II. This not only makes it easier to open and close, but it also aids in improving the overall aerodynamics of the new helmet.
The rear exhaust vent nearly doubled in size, helping air to flow through the helmet more comfortably. The only downside here is that it is no longer an active vent, meaning you lose the ability to close it off. While the old switch on the RF-1200 was a pain in the ass to use and you could never figure out if it was actually open or closed, at least it was there. If you could figure it out, it allowed you to block air in colder weather.
We’ve spent the better part of this week riding non stop with this helmet in a variety of conditions (it was actually snowing during our photo shoot) and wearing it in back-to-back sessions with the RF-1200. We currently have about three days of riding under our belt with the new helmet, and while it’s hard to draw definitive conclusions without more seat time, I do have some initial thoughts.
Unlike the RF-1200’s release, the RF-1400 doesn’t make a statement all its own. This isn’t a groundbreaking new helmet that’s going to have competitors scrambling back to their respective drawing boards. Rather, the RF-1400 is an iteration on one of the most popular helmets of the past decade. They made minor tweaks to the RF-1200 to address concerns that riders had with that lid, and that made it better in some ways, but didn't improve it in others.
Do I think you need to rush out and trade your old RF-1200 in on a new 1400? Nope.
But unlike the Levi's approach to updating their models of popular jeans, when your old helmet wears out and it’s time for a new one, I think fans of the previous model will be able to replace it with this new helmet and feel comfortable with the transition. And for folks looking to upgrade to their first premium helmet, the RF-1400 will be there waiting to meet their needs.
The RF-1400 goes on sale everywhere on January 1. For more information on the RF-1400, please keep your eyes peeled for our full detailed breakdown video as well as a special episode of Brandon’s “Ride Tested” series. We’re not about to let the winter months stop us from logging miles in what is sure to be a very popular helmet from Shoei.